I’ve tried to apply the micro lesson learned on the roads of Boston to the macro of the rest of my life. I have impossibly high standards for myself. I’ve learned to mellow out on my self criticism over the years to my great benefit. I tend to still be pretty demanding of the world around me and the people in it. I can get frustrated/angry by little things that people do that I can perceive as rude or oblivious.
For example, it drives me crazy when other kids are rude, pushy, or territorial at the playground. My kids are on the small size and my oldest is particularly conflict averse. He’ll just walk away and be sad rather than stand up for himself. But, in the grand scheme that’s a good thing. Anyway, when he was younger, I would get so angry at the parents who let their kids run wild and assumed that they were lazy or bad parents and that the kids were just undisciplined bad kids.
Five years later as my youngest is just playground age, I’m in a different place… most of the time. I think much of my progress has to do with my current profession. Rather than assuming “that kid” is just a jerk with bad parents, I’m much more likely to think that he/she must have some issue. Maybe Mom and/or Dad are great parents dealing with a challenging situation and a challenging child.
This compassionate approach that is defined by empathy instead of anger was difficult to cultivate, for me at least. But it is a much more adaptive way to to go through life. Even if they are bad parents and the kid is an out of control spawn of satan… it doesn’t do me any good to think/assume that. There’s nothing I can do about it. That anger is the definition of an unproductive emotion or thought. It makes life much better to just get rid of it.
For the record, I’m hardly a saint. I’m more successful at this some times and less successful other times. But overall, life is better when trying to assume the best of people. That I can say with certainty.